A review of “Dave Chappelle's Block Party” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: *** 1/2

Rating: R for strong language and adult themes

Run Time: 1 hour, 43 minutes

 

 

Contentious comedian Dave Chappelle knows how to throw a party, in this case a Brooklyn-based block bash cum concert that lets loose with wit and style.

Rubber-faced Dave is a mass of contradictions both onscreen and off; self-imposed showbiz exile torn between the image of rising superstar and staying true to his humble roots. Trailed by Oscar-winning filmmaker Michel Gondry (“Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”) and cinematographer Ellen Kuras Dave sets out on a dizzy mission to distribute free golden tickets to a rap-heavy fete that’s going to rock the house.

Music, humor and a uniquely mellow vibe characterize this unique concert film. Dave wanders the backroads of his Ohio hometown and spontaneously auditions an entire college marching band with the intention of packing them off to Brooklyn as back-up to some of the biggest names in the biz.

 He waxes prosaic on a wacky variety of subjects ranging from racism to fashion with goofy gusto. Even the local mini-mart cashier isn’t safe from Dave’s relentless good cheer tinged with caustic savvy.

Once the players are in place it’s time to disco; the coolest cats in the business congregating freestyle. Kanye West raps his fervent best while Erykah Badu soulfully makes love to the crowd from under the world’s largest afro; Jill Scott trumps woman-power with great gusto and notorious gangsta band Dead Prez tears it down.

Sparks fly when Lauren Hill takes the stage with the Fugees, their first performance together in over seven years. Her set alone is worth the price of admission. Mos Def (I want to eat him with a spoon) kindles tangible fire while rap, funk and hip-hop make beautiful music together.

Though Dave assembles cast and crowd with generous promises of gratis transport and digs he’s no goody-two-shoes. His humor is coal black and laced with enough razor-sharp edges to counterbalance his combustible enthusiasm and hilarious one-liners. He claims to have talked his way into a personal fortune; the fortune is ours for this contagious and enigmatic doc.